|SETI Alien Contact
The Search for Life in the Universe
Extraterrestrial life is defined as life that does not originate from
Earth. It is unknown whether any such life exists or ever existed in the
past, although many scientists think it is likely that on Mars, for
instance, life either exists or has existed.
Various claims have
been made for evidence of extraterrestrial life, such as those listed
in a 2006 New Scientist article, which the magazine describes as "hints"
rather than proof.
|A less direct argument for the existence of
extraterrestrial life relies on the vast size of the observable
According to this argument, endorsed by Carl Sagan and Stephen
Hawking, it would be improbable for life not to exist somewhere other
The mission of the SETI Institute is to
explore, understand and explain the origin, nature and prevalence of
life in the universe.
||We believe we are conducting the most profound search in human history — to know our beginnings and our place among the stars.
The trend to assume that celestial bodies were
populated almost by default was tempered as actual probes visited
potential alien abodes in the Solar System beginning in the second half
of the 20th century.
At the same time, the beginning Space Age was
accompanied by a surge of UFO reports, particularly in the United
States, during the 1950s.
The term UFO itself was coined in 1952
in the context of the enormous popularity of the concept of "flying
saucers" in the wake of the Kenneth Arnold UFO sighting in 1947.
moon was decisively ruled out as a possibility, while Venus and Mars,
long the two main candidates for extraterrestrials, showed no obvious
evidence of current life.
The other large moons of our system which have
been visited appear, to our knowledge, similarly lifeless, though the
interesting geothermic forces observed (Io's volcanism, Europa's ocean,
Titan's thick atmosphere and hydrocarbon lakes) have underscored how
broad the range of potentially habitable environments may be.
the hypothesis of a deliberate cosmic silence of advanced
extraterrestrials is also a possibility, the failure of the SETI program
to announce an intelligent radio signal after four decades of effort
has at least partially dimmed the prevailing optimism of the beginning
of the space age.
Intelligent life most
likely exists out there somewhere in the darkness of the universe, but
where this life exists is not known. SETI hopes that one day we may
receive a message from another species.
Jill Tarter: Why the Search for Alien Intelligence Matters
Accelerate our Search for Cosmic Company
SETI Institute's Jill Tarter makes her TED Prize wish: to accelerate
our search for cosmic company. Using a growing array of radio
telescopes, she and her team listen for patterns that may be a sign of
intelligence elsewhere in the universe.
TEDTalks is a daily video
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chimpanzees, Bill Gates on malaria and mosquitoes and "Lost" producer
JJ Abrams on the allure of mystery.
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Search for ET
The serious science which is bringing us to the edge of discovery of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe.
Are we alone? SETI--the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence--is a
privately funded project using radio telescopes and optical telescopes
to scan the stars for signals.
NASA is planning missions to Mars,
Jupiter's sixth moon, Europa, and Saturn's largest moon, Titan, to look
for primitive, microbial life in ice concentrations.
Whether we discover
primitive or intelligent life, how will that knowledge impact
humankind's view of itself?
Cutting-edge computer graphics are used to
bring the universe down to earth to show what life would be like on
other planets, and to imagine what kind of life forms might evolve in
Notwithstanding, the unproven belief in
extraterrestrial beings is voiced (not as a hypothesis) in
pseudoscience, conspiracy theories in popular places like 'Area
Emboldened critics view the search for
extraterrestrials as unscientific, despite the fact that the SETI
program is not the result of a continuous, dedicated search, but instead
utilizes what resources and manpower it can, when it can. Furthermore,
the SETI program only searches a limited range of frequencies at any one
In the words of SETI's Frank Drake:
"All we know for sure
is that the sky is not littered with powerful microwave transmitters".
Drake has also noted that it is entirely possible that advanced
technology results in communication being carried out in some way other
than conventional radio transmission.
At the same time, the data
returned by space probes, and giant strides in detection methods, have
allowed science to begin delineating habitability criteria on other
worlds, and to confirm that at least other planets are plentiful, though
aliens remain a question mark.
The Wow! signal, from SETI, remains a
race of aliens arrive on Earth in a fleet of 50 huge, saucer-shaped
motherships, which hover over major key cities across the world.
They reveal themselves on the roof of the United Nations building in
New York City, appearing human but requiring special glasses to protect
their eyes and having a distinctive resonance to their voices.
Referred to as the Visitors, they reach out in friendship, ostensibly
seeking the help of humans to obtain chemicals and minerals needed to
aid their ailing world.
In return, the Visitors promise to share their advanced technology with
humanity. The governments of Earth accept the arrangement but the
Visitors have evil intentions for humans on the planet Earth.
It is believed that if an alien species introduced themselves to humans
that there are only two outcomes that would occur: The Visitors will
either be friendly or evil.
In 2000, geologist and paleontologist Peter
Ward and astrobiologist Donald Brownlee published a book entitled Rare
Earth: Why Complex Life is Uncommon in the Universe.
In it, they
discussed the Rare Earth hypothesis, in which they claim that Earth-like
life is rare in the universe, while microbial life is common.
Brownlee are open to the idea of evolution on other planets which is not
based on essential Earth-like characteristics (such as DNA and carbon).
possible existence of primitive (microbial) life outside of Earth is
much less controversial to mainstream scientists, although, at present,
no direct evidence of such life has been found. Indirect evidence has
been offered for the current existence of primitive life on Mars.
However, the conclusions that should be drawn from such evidence remain
Strategies in the Search for ET
Presented by Seth Shostak, SETI Institute.
The scientific hunt
for extraterrestrial intelligence is now into its fifth decade, and we
still haven't uncovered a confirmed peep from the cosmos. For that
matter, we still dont know if life at any level of intelligence exists
Could this mean that finding aliens, even if theyre out
there, is a project for the ages one that might take centuries or
The preferred technique used to hunt down cosmic company
is to look for persistent radio signals or laser flashes from nearby
star systems. But could this be a flawed strategy?
presentation, well consider some strategies that new SETI experiments
might consider, as well as discuss why its possible that we might find
evidence of sophisticated intelligence within only a few decades.
is the Senior Astronomer at the SETI Institute, in Mountain View,
California. He has an undergraduate degree in physics from Princeton
University, and a doctorate in astronomy from the California Institute
of Technology. For much of his career, Seth conducted radio astronomy
research on galaxies, and has published approximately sixty papers in
He has written several hundred popular
magazine and Web articles on various topics in astronomy, technology,
film and television. He lectures on astronomy and other subjects at
Stanford and other venues in the Bay Area, and for the last six years,
has been a Distinquished Speaker for the American Institute of
Aeronautics and Astronautics. He is also Chair of the International
Academy of Astronautics SETI Permanent Study Group. Every week he hosts
the SETI Institutes science radio show, Are We Alone?
edited and contributed to a half dozen books. He has also been the
principal author of four: Sharing the Universe: Perspectives on
Extraterrestrial Life, Life in the Universe (textbook with Jeff
Bennett), Cosmic Company (with Alex Barnett), and, most recently,
Confessions of an Alien Hunter.